March 26 1815: Fortune’s Favourite

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On March 27 1815, Lord Byron writes to Thomas Moore. He is ecstatic at Napoleon’s return, and is moved to write some lines of poetry, writing

Making every allowance for talent and most consummate daring, there is, after all, a good deal in luck or destiny. He might have been stopped by our frigates—or wrecked in the Gulf of Lyons,  which is particularly tempestuous—or—a thousand things. But he is certainly Fortune’s favourite, and

Once fairly set out on his party of pleasure,
Taking towns at his liking and crowns at his leisure,
From Elba to Lyons and Paris he goes,
Making balls for the ladies, and bows to his foes.

You must have seen the account of his driving into the middle of the royal army, and the immediate effect of his pretty speeches. And now if he don’t drub the allies, there is ‘no purchase in money.’ If he can take France by himself, the devil’s in’t if he don’t repulse the invaders, when backed by those celebrated sworders—those boys of the blade, the Imperial Guard, and the old and new army. It is impossible not to be dazzled and overwhelmed by his character and career. Nothing ever so disappointed me as his abdication, and nothing could have reconciled me to him but some such revival as his recent exploit; though no one could anticipate such a complete and brilliant renovation. 

The full letter reads.

I meaned to write to you before on the subject of your loss;63 but the recollection of the uselessness and worthlessness of any observations on such events prevented me. I shall only now add, that I rejoice to see you bear it so well, and that I trust time will enable Mrs. M[oore]. to sustain it better. Every thing should be done to divert and occupy her with other thoughts and cares, and I am sure that all that can be done will.

Now to your letter. Napoleon—but the papers will have told you all. I quite think with you upon the subject, and for my real thoughts this time last year, I would refer you to the last pages of the Journal I gave you. I can forgive the rogue for utterly falsifying every line of mine Ode—which I take to be the last and uttermost stretch of human magnanimity. Do you remember the story of a certain Abbé, who wrote a treatise on the Swedish Constitution, and proved it indissoluble and eternal? Just as he had corrected the last sheet, news came that Gustavus III. had destroyed this immortal government. ‘Sir,’ quoth the Abbé, ‘the King of Sweden may overthrow the constitution, but not my book!!’ I think of the Abbé, but not with him.

Making every allowance for talent and most consummate daring, there is, after all, a good deal in luck or destiny. He might have been stopped by our frigates—or wrecked in the Gulf of Lyons,  which is particularly tempestuous—or—a thousand things. But he is certainly Fortune’s favourite, and

Once fairly set out on his party of pleasure,
Taking towns at his liking and crowns at his leisure,
From Elba to Lyons and Paris he goes,
Making balls for the ladies, and bows to his foes.

You must have seen the account of his driving into the middle of the royal army, and the immediate effect of his pretty speeches. And now if he don’t drub the allies, there is ‘no purchase in money.’ If he can take France by himself, the devil’s in’t if he don’t repulse the invaders, when backed by those celebrated sworders—those boys of the blade, the Imperial Guard, and the old and new army. It is impossible not to be dazzled and overwhelmed by his character and career. Nothing ever so disappointed me as his abdication, and nothing could have reconciled me to him but some such revival as his recent exploit; though no one could anticipate such a complete and brilliant renovation.

To your question, I can only answer that there have been some symptoms which look a little gestatory. It is a subject upon which I am not particularly anxious, except that I think it would please her uncle, Lord Wentworth, and her father and mother. The former (Lord W[entworth].) is now in town, and in very indifferent health. You, perhaps, know that his property, amounting to seven or eight thousand a year, will eventually devolve upon Bell. But the old gentleman has been so very kind to her and me, that I hardly know how to wish him in heaven, if he can be comfortable on earth. Her father is still in the country.

We mean to metropolise to-morrow, and you will address your next to Piccadilly. We have got the Duchess of Devon’s house there, she being in France. I don’t care what Power says to secure the property of the Song, so that it is not complimentary to me, nor any thing about ‘condescending’ or ‘noble author’—both ‘vile phrases,’ as Polonius says.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Pray, let me hear from you, and when you mean to be in town. Your continental scheme is impracticable for the present. I have to thank you for a longer letter than usual, which I hope will induce you to tax my gratitude still further in the same way. You never told me about ‘Longman’ and ‘next winter,’ and I am not a ‘mile-stone.’

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